Federal Writers ' Project - Life Histories/2017/Fall/Section 26/Nora Oates

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Nora I. Oates
BornUnknown state, US
DiedUnknown
NationalityAmerican
OccupationTourist House Manager
EmployerWebweave Corsets
PartnerMarried

Overview[edit]

Nora I. Oates was a married working woman who lived in Charlotte, NC. during the Great Depression. She had a critically illed husband whose health condition did not allow him to support the family. She was interviewed for the federal writer’s project in 1939.[1]


Biography[edit]

Nora I. Oates was born in a Cotton Mill Hill in an unknown state. Her birth date is unknown. She worked at a mill when she was approximately ten years old. She met her husband at the age of fifteen and got married within three months. While working in the Cotton Mill Hill, her husband worked part-time since his illness began deteriorate. Oates then moved to Riverton (Charlotte) with her husband when an auto mechanic job was offered to her husband. Soon she became pregnant, but her husband’s condition could no longer allow him to work at all. As a result, Oates worked as a saleswoman in Webweave Corsets (Spencer Corsets) during her pregnancy and earned enough money to support the family. Many women during the Great Depression had to work instead of staying at home. One highlighted social issue was the dramatic increase of working women. Since Oates worked all day, she left her child with her mother. The decision led to the death of her child because the child got a severe sickness after eating the food chewed by its grandmother. Mouth feeding was a tradition among elderly people, they would chew food in their mouth before feeding babies. This action can result serious bacterial infection. Oates was devastated by the death of her beloved child and she also worried about the debts her family owed due to the underperformed economy. As her husband’s disease got worse, the money she made was insufficient to pay the medical bills. So Oates loaned from banks. During the Great Depression, it was very normal for families to owe debts because the unemployment rate was high and salaries were cut. This was another important social issue that reflected poor living conditions for American families during the Great Depression. Oates viewed borrowing as a necessary mean in order to run the family properly. Oates eventually adopted a child later in her life. Oates died at an unknown date. [2]

Working Women[edit]

Growth of Working Women[edit]

During the Great Depression, more women abandoned their traditional role in the family and began to work. From the historian’s opinion, the “pin-money theory” was dead.[3] The pin-money theory means the money given by a man to his wife for her own use. It represents the dominant position of men in the families. However, this tradition degraded due to the raise of the women’s financial independence. In the decade between 1930 and 1940, the number of married women in the labor force increased by nearly 50 percent, while their numbers in the population increased by only 15 percent.[4] So population growth only partially contributed to the increasing number of the working women. Wandersee Bolin explained the major reason for this growth is that “the majority of married women workers during these years were working because of economic necessity.”


Societal environment for the working women[edit]

The society did not support such dramatic growth of working women. The reason for that disapproval was the idea that more women employed, fewer men employed.[5] During the time of economic stagnation, women were under a great deal of public pressure to leave the labor market in order to avoid competing with men for the short supply of jobs.[6] One evidence of this public pressure is the official “propaganda” during that era. Beth Harrison indicates that “the Great Depression’s “propaganda,” from newspaper columns to Women’s Bureau surveys, discouraged women from seeking professional and laboring jobs.”[7] Besides the pressure from the government officials, the working women also faced severe pressure from their families. Their families also want working women to excel in nurturing children, which was highly impossible considering the time they must put into work. To sum up, the conventional idea that women should stay at home still prevailed among the population and women were facing huge difficulties in responding to societal expectation on their family duties.

Household Debts[edit]

During the Great Depression, household income decreased significantly because of the cut on monthly salaries. The unemployment rate raised significantly during the period. At the beginning, unemployment was 3.2 percent, but it skyrocketed to 15.9 percent in 1931 and 23.6 percent in 1932.[8] While many were losing their jobs, many who had jobs also underwent serious financial crisis because of the curtailed salaries. The average family income became 40 percent less than their previous income during the Great Depression.[9] However, the normal spending in the household had to continue, even become higher. The high expectation with respect to standards of living was a result of the American dream in 1920s.[10] The expectation stayed high, but the ways to achieve these expectations declined.[11] So some families borrowed, while others might refused to pay their bills. From 1930 to 1932,total household indebtedness unrelated to stock continued to grow.[12] Especially, from 1929 to 1930, the household liabilities percent increased by twenty percentage.[13]The debts in the household required more family members to work and to make money. The economic stagnation was a big problem for the household. It could be indicated by the significant GDP declination in 1930. In 1929, US GDP was 1.057 trillions, but in 1930, it declined by 8.5 percent.[14] Many families were hoping to receive aids from banks. However, banks had their own serious problem. During the Great Depression, banks were unreliable. In the early 30s, banks began to fail at alarming rates.[15] In all, 9000 banks failed during the decade of the 30s.[16] If a banks failed, you lost the money you had in the bank.[17] So many banks did not have enough money to loan out, which made it harder for household to pay back their debts.

References[edit]

  1. interview. Anybody Not in Debt Ain't Worth Nothing. June 23, 1939. Folder 301. 03709. Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 1936-1940. Wilson Library. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/740/rec/1
  2. interview. Anybody Not in Debt Ain't Worth Nothing. June 23, 1939. Folder 301. 03709. Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 1936-1940. Wilson Library. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/740/rec/1
  3. Wandersee Bolin, Winifred. “The Economics of Middle-Income Family Life: Working Women During the Great Depression.” The Journal of American History 65, no. 1 (June 1978).
  4. Winifred, “The Economics of Middle-Income Family Life: Working Women During the Great Depression.”,3
  5. Boehm, Lisa Krissoff. "Women, Impact of the Great Depression on." New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Harrison, Beth. “Review: Daughters of Earth.” The Women’s Review of Books 13, no. 9 (June 1996).
  8. Amadeo, Kimberly. “Effects of the Great Depression.” The Balance, n.d.
  9. Bryson, Dennis. "Family and Home, Impact of the Great Depression on." New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.
  10. Winifred, “The Economics of Middle-Income Family Life: Working Women During the Great Depression.”,3
  11. Ibid.
  12. Mishkin, Frederic. “The Household Balance Sheet and the Great Depression.” The Journal of Economic History 38, no. 4 (December 1978).
  13. Ibid.
  14. Amadeo, Kimberly. “U.S. GDP by Year Compared to Recessions and Events.” The Balance, October 6, 2017. https://www.thebalance.com/us-gdp-by-year-3305543.
  15. Ganzel, Bill. “Bank Failures.” Living History Farm, 2003.http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/money_08.html.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.